Four Wonderful Things Happening in Christianity – Be Encouraged!
You don’t have to look very hard to find depressing news. If you immerse yourself wholly in Western media—whether Christian or secular—you might come to the conclusion that the Bride of Christ is breathing her last gasp in the world: young people don’t go to church anymore; secular culture is more threatening and even violent in its rhetoric towards Christians; denominational divisions are becoming more pronounced in some areas; militant Islam is working overtime to kill and imprison believers worldwide; and, well, if you kept digging up the bones, you could probably make this downer list go on as long as you’d like.
This is not to say that we should be shutting our eyes as tight as we can and ignoring evil and suffering; however, fixing our eyes on the good is more than just nice advice for the Christian: it is a Biblical command.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)
In that spirit, here are four wonderful things that are happening in global (and, yes, even Western) Christianity that we—regardless of denomination—can rejoice about together:
1. The Worship Wars are coming to an end: In a recent article, Thom S. Rainier cites some encouraging signs in the Western Church today that suggest that the “worship wars”—which refer to the different worship style preferences among Christians that cause arguments and divisions—are winding down. For example, Millenials and Boomers—shockingly—seem to get along much more than other generations; and they tend to agree more about worship styles. The resurgence of hymns has also been a big factor in easing tensions, because for the first time in a long while, both younger and older generations love hymns now, providing a rich common ground.
2. The largest, most astonishing missionary movement in history is underway: God is doing some big things in the 10/40 Window—the area of the world that contains the most unreached people groups. This includes all of the Islamic nations that have been at odds with the West in recent decades.
But first, to appreciate God’s strategy, it’s important to know some recent history. Two huge population centers—China and the continent of Africa—saw a mind-boggling number of conversions to Christianity during the 20th century. While the world was awash in World Wars (both Hot and Cold) and while the onslaught of postmodernism was assaulting the West, God was busy setting the foundation for the greatest missionary movement in history. He was hard at work building a vast army of evangelists who would be uniquely equipped to spiritually combat the powers of Islam in the 21st century and bring the Gospel into the heart of the 10/40 Window.
As the 20th century came to a close, God’s strategy became clearer: He would saturate the 10/40 Window with the Gospel using what military strategists might call a pincer attack, a simultaneous attack from two fronts—China and Africa.
In the late Nineties, the leaders of the underground Chinese church, which was close to 100 million Christians at that time (130 million now), tithed 10% of their most mature leaders to missions work. At that time, their leaders numbered around a million, so they vowed to send 100,000 missionaries. The first team, though small in number, left China in March 2000, and even today they are still sending teams of missionaries into the Islamist, Buddhist, and Hindu countries—steadily moving towards their goal of sending 100,000 missionaries. The Nigerian church in Africa has established a similar goal: Vision 5015 is the Nigerian church’s goal to mobilize Nigerians for missions. The plan is to train 50,000 missionaries and send them to the 34 countries between Nigeria and Israel over a 15 year period (2005 – 2020).
These unprecedented missionary movements are underway, and though the news media will likely ignore the story, we can be encouraged to know that something amazing is happening despite those grim headlines we read every day.
3. Christians are targeting Al-Qaeda, but not to kill them: The same Chinese Christians referenced above have made another goal: actively seek out the known locations of Al-Qaeda, such as specific cities in Yemen and Mali, live among them, and preach the Gospel to them, even if that means losing their lives. They are taking Christ’s directive to “love our enemies” very seriously. For more details about this astonishing mission, click here.
4. Help is on the way: I’ve heard some Christians react to the reports above with comments like, “Well, that’s amazing and all, but what about here in the West? It’s become a spiritual sinkhole here.” If you feel that ministering in the United States or another Western nation is like spitting in the wind, don’t be discouraged. God is sending help here too! A 2012 news article in the New York Times, if you can believe it, broke the story that Christians in Africa are sending missionaries to America! It is not just Africa, either. While attending one of the most anti-Christian schools in the country, I witnessed missionaries from South America boldly preaching the Gospel on campus. I’ve met pastors from Korean house churches, and I’ve befriended fiery church leaders from Ghana—all of them coming to America to preach the Gospel.
You might be going through some tough times in your life. You might be overwhelmed with discouragement, especially if you work in ministry; but it’s comforting to know that God is working behind the scenes of what the world considers to be its darkest problems: terrorism, Middle East tensions, etc. Even if we can’t always see the details of what He’s doing, we can know He is up to something big.
Besides all of these things mentioned above, the best news of all has been true from the beginning: Christ is on His throne and His unshakable kingdom will someday roll up this old world’s pride like a tattered scroll. The light of eternity is peeking over the hills on the distant horizon, and Heaven is on its way. There are bright days ahead of us, even if we have to go through some dark ones first. Regardless, whether bright or dark, the Good Shepherd is with us.